Ice treatment is most commonly used for acute injuries. If you have had a recent injury (within the last 48 hours) where swelling is a problem, you should be using ice. Icing is a form of cold therapy, or cryotherapy. It works by reducing blood flow to a particular area. Icing can significantly reduce inflammation and swelling that causes pain, especially around a joint or tendon. It also has a numbing effect on the area, and it slows down the pain messages sent from your nerves to your brain.
Cold therapy should be applied as soon as possible after an injury. Applying an ice pack early and often for the first 48 hours will help minimize swelling, and decreasing swelling around an injury will help to control the pain. Ice treatments may also be used for chronic conditions, such as overuse injuries in athletes. In this case, ice the injured area after activity to help control inflammation. Never ice a chronic injury before activity. Use ice for short periods of time. Ten to 15 minutes is fine, and no more than 20 minutes of cold therapy should be used at a time to prevent nerve, tissue, and skin damage. Elevation can also reduce the amount of swelling and inflammation.